Sports and Law: A Combination That Comes Together

In the field of law, there is a process that must be in place. You have to graduate from college and take the LSAT to get into law school. After that, you then have to attend an accredited law school and have a high enough grade point average to get to the next step. From there, you have to pass the bar exam. These rules require 19 years of schooling and bar exam preparation, which is not exactly how things may be done in California. (See Kim Kardashian for further explanation). What is missed along the way is the makeup of what brought your attorney to the place where you decided to hire them to guide your case. One of the most overlooked concepts is that former athletes make for exceptional lawyers. Today we talked with some of the top lawyers in the State of Michigan and learned how their careers in sports played a role in their success as an attorney.

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan. McManus is known as a top researcher and business attorney. Still, before he decided on a career in law, McManus was a successful athlete. As a youth growing up in New York, he was a national champion in Judo, and he still holds his high school basketball team’s record for making 13 three-point field goals in one game. McManus discussed this when he said, “When a child faces the pressure of sports, it gives them a positive sense of competition. I think many of the lessons taught to me by my coaches growing up serve our firm well. Sports and law are not as different as people think.”

Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo. She has become one of the top divorce lawyers in Michigan.Kelley was a very successful athlete in her youth and has taken those talents into the current day. Kelley played Division I softball for Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She currently coaches JV Basketball at “Divine Child High School” in Dearborn, Michigan. She is one of the top travel softball players in our state. Kelley added, “Sports was always my first love; it was something that was a priority in our house. I always knew I wanted to coach when my playing days were over. The transition into law was natural because I feel that we as counsel for our clients as much as we litigate for them. Being an attorney is about going to court and going the extra mile for our clients. Sports taught us these lessons from the first time we were on the softball diamond.”

Megan (Mast) Smith is an Associate Attorney for Tanis Schultz in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Smith is known as a top criminal lawyer in Kent County, Michigan. Before the law, Smith was a state champion Equestrian, winning titles for Showmanship. Smith also excelled in track and field when running the 400 and 800 at Ludington High School. Smith stated, “Riding horses places the spotlight on you and your beloved animal, and in some ways, you are like co-chairs on a case. The track was more of a team effort. In criminal law, sometimes you are fighting for your firm, and sometimes it is just you and your client working as a unit. Sports laid the foundation for litigation with these lessons.”

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has created an elite team of criminal defense lawyers. Grabel excelled as a third baseman in baseball in his Atlantic City High School and college days and was a strong tennis player. Grabel provided commentary on the topic when he stated, “The hot corner at baseball was all about read and reacted. With a strong right-handed hitter, you are staring down the barrel of the game; with a speedster, you have to prepare for a bunt. Playing third base is a lot like practicing criminal law. It’s about being able to adjust on the fly. I wish I could’ve enjoyed baseball more, it’s an amazing game, but it was like a job. It has served our clients well, but I do hope that kids playing can relax and have fun while playing the sport.”

William Amadeo is a Partner at McManus and Amadeo and is often thought of as the top criminal lawyer in Michigan. Amadeo, who has his podcast and a caseload encompassing 17 different counties, played many sports growing up. Amadeo was a baseball player until college, played travel softball for many years, and was a semi-professional boxer. Amadeo said, “I’m the worst athlete in the article, and I owe a lot to Adam Son, my trainer. It is easy to let ourselves go in this field, and I fell into that trap until I started training with Adam (Son). I feel every lawyer that played sports as a kid should continue to work out because when we are in strong physical shape, we can think regularly. Without sports, I cannot get the results my client deserves, so the two topics do live side by side.”

While the game of law and sports do not look identical on their face, the commonalities run deep. A former athlete might be a fantastic option for a successful result in court.

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